Ten things you didn't know about the Ten Commandments:
1. Jews and Christians number the commandments differently. The reason is that “Ten Commandments” in the original Hebrew literally reads “Ten Statements.” Therefore, Jews count the first statement, which is “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” as the first commandment.
2. Without God, the Ten Commandments, and morality in general, is just a list of arbitrary rules. Unless there is a Higher Authority (God) behind the Ten Commandments, all right and wrong are just personal opinion and belief, subject to change.
3. The Second Commandment (according to the Jewish tradition), “You shall have no other gods before me,” does not simply refer to stone idols of Moses’ day. “Other gods” are anything that we “worship” more than God—money, power, love, education, a nation, or art.
4. The Third Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain,” is often interpreted as saying something like “Oh my God!” However, the Hebraic translation literally reads, “Thou shalt not carry the Lord’s name in vain,” meaning do not commit evil in God’s name.
5. The Third Commandment is also the only commandment which, when violated, God never forgives.
6. Western Civilization—which developed universal human rights, created women's equality, ended slavery, and created democracy—would not have been developed without the Ten Commandments.
7. The Fourth Commandment, "Remember the Sabbath Day," uplifts mankind more than any other commandment. For most of history, life consisted overwhelmingly of work, and human beings were essentially beasts of burden. This commandment changed that by insisting that people stop working one day out of seven to rest, strengthen relationships, and enjoy life.
8. In our culture, the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” is not widely emphasized. Many parents object to “honoring” since it implies an authority figure, an idea that is often rejected. Instead, they want to be loved, not honored, by their children. This threatens the family structure and makes children believe they are their own boss, a dangerous misconception that will harm them in their workplace, marriage, and worldview.
9. Truth, and following the Ninth Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," is the most important value in society. Goodness and compassion may be the most important values in the personal realm, but the societal realm, truth is more important. Virtually all great societal evils, such as African slavery, Nazism, and Communism, have been based on lies.
10. The Ten Commandments are not a list of rules. The commandments prove that God wants mankind to be free: "I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Following the commandments actually frees us from the terrible consequences of sin, making our lives better.
Dennis Prager is the host of the nationally syndicated Dennis Prager Show and author of The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code. In 2011, Dennis co-founded Prager University, an online institution of higher learning with a unique difference—all the courses are five minutes long. The courses distill the best ideas of the best minds in the world and cover the disciplines of Political Science, History, Philosophy, Religion, Economics, and Psychology. Dennis currently resides in Los Angeles, California. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
Publication date: April 6, 2015
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